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News Release

USDA Awards Grant to Chesapeake Bay Foundation to Reduce Stormwater Pollution in Bay

Molly Hippensteel

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has recently awarded $415,000 to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to pilot a Pay-for-success (PFS) model to stimulate natural resources conservation using capital from private investors. The project will demonstrate the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of using a PFS approach to attract new streams of capital to implement conservation practices on agricultural lands that will be used to satisfy stormwater pollution reduction requirements of urban/suburban municipalities.

The "PA Offset Partnerships" project is one of 33 projects selected nationwide through USDA's competitive Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program, which helps develop tools, technologies, and strategies such as market-based conservation approaches to support next-generation conservation efforts on working lands.

This project will be the first of its kind pay-for-success investment in agricultural practices. Under this model the municipality will work through a financial intermediary that will contract with service providers to work with farmers to implement conservation practices in Lancaster and York Counties.

The Federal funding will be matched by CBF and other partners with experience and expertise working with municipalities in stormwater compliance, agricultural production, and design and development of PFS transactions. Since the project relies on large investors assuming the risk, it is believed that conservation practices will get on the ground sooner.

NRCS has awarded more than $22.6 million across the country to drive public and private sector innovation in resource conservation. Public and private grantees - including non-governmental organizations, American Indian tribes, academic institutions and local government entities - leverage the federal investment by at least matching it. The 2017 CIG awards bring the total NRCS investment to nearly $286.7 million for 711 projects since 2004.

"The Conservation Innovation Grant program is an example of government at its best, providing seed money to help spur cutting-edge projects,” said NRCS Acting Chief Leonard Jordan. “This year’s competition resulted in an impressive array of proposals that will ultimately benefit the people who grow our food and fiber.”

“The CIG conservation finance and pay-for-success projects reward farmers, ranchers and producers who make their livelihoods on America’s working lands sustainably, through sound science and conservation principles,” said Jordan. “And CIG funding ensures that all producers, including new and under-represented farmers and ranchers, can benefit economically from innovative conservation tools and strategies.”

Read about and download the full list of this fiscal year’s selected projects. CLICK HERE to view the list through an interactive map.

CIG is funded through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The maximum grant is $2 million per project, and the length of time for project completion is three years. The CIG projects are designed to engage EQIP-eligible producers in on-the-ground conservation activities that speed up the transfer and adoption of innovative conservation technologies and approaches. The NRCS uses CIG to work with other public and private entities to accelerate transfer and adoption of promising technologies and approaches to address some of the nation’s most pressing natural resource concerns.